Shin Naerim goes to a high school in Korea. She writes stories on the internet, and her mother is a shaman. The girls at school, led by Naerim’s former friend Song Nina, bully her daily.
The girls pressure her into visiting an abandoned church with them one night. Naerim is pushed into opening a cabinet with mystic seals upon it; inside is a vampire. He feeds upon the blood from a cut on her leg, and this forms a mysterious bond, represented by a glowing red string only Naerim can see.
I’ll admit to being out of my element with Lee Narae’s Bloody Sweet. I’ve said before that I’m not especially into manga and anime, and this one definitely seems more geared towards high schoolers — girls in particular. That being said, I will try to give the best evaluation that I can.
The setup about a bullied high school girl who is more artsy and writing-oriented than others isn’t unheard of, even in the medium of manga. What helps this stand out though is how unnervingly viscerally it affects Naerim.
Naerim’s bullying is made painful to watch by the specific and real ways it impacts her. The damage is shown to us constantly, and it succeeds in gaining sympathy from the reader. It even points out the nonphysical nature of the bullying makes it harder to give evidence to the teachers — a real problem in schools.
Naerim is a likable character overall, too, though her quiet and passive nature does make it feel like you don’t get to know the character very well. This is rectified with later backstories as well as the introduction of the vampire. She blooms as a character when Vlad Fetechou (the vampire) comes into the story.
Vlad is an endearing all his own. He’s surprisingly devoted, clingy, and energetic. The nature of his relationship with Naerim also introduces something of a BDSM subordinate-dominant relationship. Make your 50 Shades jokes; this story is a lot better and not nearly as graphic.
The bullies, particularly Sing Nina, aren’t really given any humanizing elements. Nina is a borderline sociopath, and her lackeys just mimic her actions.
There is another character named Hyo-Yeol who shows up in the third chapter. He hasn’t been developed much in the section I’ve read, but he is fairly likable. He is drawn to look like a college football player, so it’s hard to buy that he is only in middle school unless steroids and HGH are involved.
The lettering can get a little confusing and disorganized, especially when a single dialogue bubble has two different styles of lettering within. It can still be navigated, but you may have to run through a panel multiple times to understand. That’s a minor quibble, but it’s still something worth thinking about.
The art is good and effective. It’s a lively manga-styling with a lot of chibi-style thrown in. Vlad’s visual design plays with vampire tropes in an entertaining way. There are a lot of blank panels with only a lighting tint and narration from Naerim that seem like they could have been filled out more. However, the rest of these first 10 chapters are consistently pretty and well drawn.
This comic is colored, and it’s appealing bright coloring. Each panel is really popping and eye-catching, and it makes good use of its palette.
Lee Narae’s Bloody Sweet isn’t something that I’d generally read. However, it succeeds in keeping its themes real and grounded enough, and the majority of it is entertaining enough that there is certainly something to be gained by those who read it. I had more fun with it than I expected to, and Naerim is a likable and relatable character for anyone who had some dark times in high school. Plus, I recommend superhero comics from the Big Two all the time, and they don’t always have universal appeal. I can recommend it to anyone charmed by its premise, and anyone who likes this premise should certainly check it out.
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